Sex: Our Greatest Natural Resource

Cupid & Psyche_Antonio Canova "Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss"

Sexual differentiation is our greatest natural resource. The fact that Adam and Eve are not identical, but corresponding, is not just a part of God’s creation. It is the best part. The fruitful tension between husband and wife, the unity-in-diversity of humanity, along with its vital outcome of children, is how continuity and diversity are sustained in the world. It is good for God’s glory, and our ability to see and show his glory. But, as with any natural resource, a good thing can be squandered. Minerals, forests, water, fertile land, and other natural goods, can be exploited, poisoned, or destroyed. Sexuality is no exception.

There are a lot of reasons why we distrust sexuality. A lot. Sexuality has been so misused, abused, and distorted we no longer trust it. It has become depleted soil. It breaks and crumbles like dry dirt. We do not trust it. So we are frightened by it. The commercialization of sex and the sexualization of commerce have hardened our hearts against God and the way he made us as men and women. We might still have bodies, but we do not know what they are for. We might still have longings, but we have nowhere to plant them. We are free, but we do not know what freedom is for.

Think of sexuality as a field, and our ideas about sexuality as our farming practices. The soil has become compact from misuse. Nothing can break through the rock but the tractors of sexual agribusiness: careerism, consumerism, spermicides, hormonal manipulation, abortion, pornography, entertainment media, no-fault divorce, and so-called “cohabitation”—agrarian methods which, in my openly biased opinion, have turned the soil of sexuality into a field of unprecedented selfishness. Media-saturated, corporately controlled propaganda has crowded our thinking about sexuality with unmatched color and noise. Truth looks pale, fastidious, crude by comparison. When it comes to sexuality, we have become accustomed to newspeak, ironic chatter, euphemism, and cant. Male-and-female creation might be our precious shared resource, but it has been so contaminated, lost to wind and erosion, and filled with artificial stimulants, we no longer recognize it.

That frightens us.

It should.

What is the solution? We get so bogged down by all of the sad, awkward, tragic abuses of sexuality that our attitude is one of fear. We are afraid of history. We are afraid of our bodies. We are afraid of what the Bible will tell us about them. So what is the solution? Is it a good thing that men and women are not identical?

The solution to sexual confusion begins with coming face-to-face with the character of God. A young man once worked for three months at the Home for Dying Destitutes in Calcutta. He was looking for answers. On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa.

“How can I pray for you?” she asked.

“Pray that I have clarity,” he said.

She answered emphatically, “No, I will not do that.”

“Why not?” he asked, startled.

“Clarity is the last thing you need,” Mother Teresa said. “What you need is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

Brennan Manning told this story. He said we do not need more insights or clarity. We need a ruthless trust in God. “Trust in God and trust in me” (John 14:1). Before we need more insights, statistics, or professional perspectives, we need to “have known and put our trust in God’s love toward us” (1 John 4:16).

When it comes to sexuality, Christians do not trust in a philosophy or in a theory. St. Paul cries out, “I know who it is that I have put my trust in” (2 Tim. 1:12). We trust in a Person: Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. So ask yourself the brutally honest question: Is God good? Do you trust Him?

Is Creation Good?
I want to read to you some of the earliest lines of the Christian tradition. You have probably heard them before. Many times. But this time, I want to invite you to pause over the words. Set aside other distractions. Listen now:

God said,
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”
…so God created man in his own image and likeness,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them with these words:
“Be fruitful. Have dominion.”
…And God saw everything he made, and behold,
it was very good
(Gen. 1:26-31).

This is not ironic chatter or polluted dirt. This is good soil. Soil like black butter, soil so rich you could throw a seed in it and watch it grow. Soil handed down from one generation to the next, handed down with all the love and hope and faith of a covenanted people, handed down with holy zeal. This is our inheritance. These first lines from Genesis are God’s gift to us, to help us understand not only ourselves, but his character.

God created us in his own image and likeness. He fashioned us as male and female, and he saw that it was very good—good, as in awesome. Ultimately, human sexuality is good because God is good (Ps. 100:5). And because God is good, all creatures are good by nature. Evil is always a parasite on something good. Evil is a distortion, a misuse or abuse, of what God originally made as good. No matter how much we corrupt God’s design, it will never be so completely corrupted that the original design and purpose is utterly lost to us.

Making people male and female was not the idea of some dead white bigot in the late Bronze Age. Differentiation of the human race into two complementary sexes was God’s idea. We are the image-bearers of God. We have been blessed, “Be fruitful, have dominion.” We are sons of Adam and daughters of Eve—and this is awesome.

If “the heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the word of his hands,” and if they “reveal knowledge” every day (Ps. 19:1-2), how much more do you, as the male-and-female creation made in the very image of God, declare the glory of God and reveal knowledge?

Listen to the Land
I am fascinated by a recent trend that bridges agriculture and ecology. It basically notices that the land is not a blank slate, but an ecosystem. For example, farmers grow crops on land that used to be a prairie or deciduous forests. If the farmers walked away, over time the fields would turn back into the ecosystem they want to be. So rather than simply imposing our will upon the land and force-feeding it chemicals and poisons to make it do what we want it to do, we should try to grow our food in such a way that works with the land. If we do not listen to the land, we will destroy it.

Our culture pretends human sexuality is a blank slate. The truth of the matter is, it is a God-made ecosystem. True, you can clear-cut and bulldoze this ecosystem. You can force-feed it chemicals and poisons. It is a free country. You can make this ecosystem do whatever you want it to do … you rebel. But in the end, you will only destroy it.

Sexual differentiation is our greatest natural resource, and the only appropriate response to any natural resource is gratefulness—loving, careful, godly, attentive gratitude. When we are grateful for a gift given to us, we naturally become stewards of that gift. The care of the earth is, after all, our oldest and most noble responsibility. Our bodies are no exception. Male-and-female creation has been entrusted to us as a gift for our survival, happiness, and nourishment. It has the great reserves of life. Even more, it is a gift for seeing and savoring the majesty of God.

Listen to the land. What does it want to be? Listen.

Some readers might roll their eyes, “Next you’ll tell me not to fight cancer or to avoid aspirin when I have a headache.” But being a man or a woman is not a headache, and it certainly is not like having cancer. A tree frog is said to be able to change color when moved from one background to another, but it takes at least two hours and considerable effort on his part to accomplish this. An acorn can grow into an oak tree, but it cannot become a blackberry bush. To watch it try would break your heart. Whatever cultural values, social roles, or interpretations you place on your body, it is still your body. People have different perceptions of reality—different gods, social structures, types of food eaten, climates. Zen Buddhism changes the way you perceive reality. Obesity changes the way you perceive reality. Short people experience the world differently than tall people. Does the sexual structure of the body also affect our experience of reality?

An alien from outer space can know that the human population is made up of men and women, but it cannot really know what it is to be a man or woman. It cannot experience reality from the inside, from within the situated-ness of being a man or a woman. Does the sexual structure of the body affect our experience of reality? If you are a man, for example, does the structure of your body affect your behavior and relationship with the world? Do you know—not theoretically, but from the inside—menstruation, female orgasm, pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, or menopause? No, you do not. And no woman will ever know from the inside what it feels like to be a man. I’m not talking about so-called “effeminate men” or “masculine women.” I am talking about our sexual structures at their most foundational level; and I am saying we should not despise them, but delight in them.

Our culture has been trying to wash away the messiness of being male and female; it reminds me of the way ancient Gnostics used to distrust matter, especially male-and-female matter, and tried to scrub it clean. If someone tells you cleanliness is next to godliness, the only appropriate answer is, “Yup, next. Right now, I’m working on godliness.”

We Are on Holy Ground
Our bodies are bearers of truth. They are instruments of love, carriages of grace. Out of a population of billions, some people have chromosomal abnormality. Some people are impotent. Some people are albinos, saints, geniuses, or Pulitzer prize-winning poets. Some people are eight feet tall. Some people can befriend lions. Some people give birth without pain. But we should not take human extremes as norms. The truth is, giving birth is painful. People do not befriend lions. We are all men or women here. Vive la difference, and stop trying to draw up new blueprints.

In general, we have to be careful not to be bamboozled by the classical fallacy of equivocation:

If women and men are not physically and emotionally equal, then the sexes are not entitled to equal rights and opportunities!

This argument may seem plausible at first glance, but only because between its premise and conclusion it moves between two very different senses of the word “equal.” Sometimes equal means “identical”; other times, equal means “entitled to equal rights and opportunities.” It is possible for two things to be unequal in the sense of being different, but equal in the sense of having the same status. In other words, it is possible for men and women to be different (“unequal”), yet entitled to the same rights and opportunities (“equal”).

Can we trust sexuality? I think so. The juxtaposition of the sexes is our greatest natural resource, a resource rooted in a ruthless trust in God’s good character. Like any other life-sustaining resource, it is an undeserved gift and worthy of our respect. It was not meant to be exploited, polluted, or commercialized. It was intended for human flourishing, for the procreation of children, for our mutual society, help, and comfort. We have been given this gift in trust.

So what’s the takeaway? The takeaway could be summed up in this passage from Scripture: “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you” (Hosea 10:12).

In other words, listen to the land. Work with it, not against it. Do not live your life in spite of being a woman or a man, but through being a woman or a man. People will look at you like you are a dinosaur who has not yet heard that your kind were supposed to be extinct. But, in fact, you will simply be a man or a woman. You might even be doing what you were made to do—glorifying God and reveling in him with your most basic gift: your body. Sexual differentiation is our precious shared resource for bringing glory to the Trinity.

So seek God like never before. Break the hard soil. Sow into your life the seeds of righteousness. It will not always be easy. But we will not be able to reap the fruit of unfailing love unless we trust God with a ruthless trust “until he comes and showers righteousness on you.” To cherish the gift of male-and-female creation, to foster its renewal, we must work hard to restore fruitful tension, mystery, and responsibility to embodiment. Seek first the Kingdom of God, and then even this will be added unto you: yourself.

At last, we are on holy ground.

Listen to the land. Praise God in it. It’s a command: “Glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).

Editor’s notes: The image above is a detail of “Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss” by the sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822).

Tyler Blanski

By

Tyler Blanski, a Catholic convert, is the author of When Donkeys Talk: Rediscovering the Mystery and Wonder of Christianity (Zondervan, 2012) and Mud & Poetry: Love, Sex, and the Sacred (Upper Room Books, 2010). www.holyrenaissance.com

  • publiusnj

    I liked the quote from Mother Teresa and the scriptural quotes on the need to trust God very much. My own Scriptural touchstone for the big things in life–the things I can’t figure out–is Isaiah 55:8-9 . ” For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

    Can I figure out why God made us male and female? I have my guesses, but I know His thoughts are so high above mine that I’ll never figure it all out. I know that the love my wife and I shared brought forth the “mini-mes” that are our children and they have enabled me to get beyond myself in a way I never had done before for they are both “I” and not “I.”

    Trusting God is the corollary of realizing that I can’t figure all this out but He has.

  • Sign

    Excellent piece. Thank you.

  • Fred

    Great article Tyler, thanks for having the courage to write and share it. It is amazing how twisted society has come to view this beautiful gift, including wider acceptance of the perversity of gay sex. Lot’s of articles written about the consequences of our clinging to earthly things and foregoing the blessing of children which naturally leads to decline of societies. As a recent convert I count myself among those and have regrets for the way I used to view sex and now not having a larger family which my wife wanted but I resisted. After the Holy Spirit came into my life I have come to see things so differently. Your article compliments the other today on the science of abortion and those that view sex as an act apart from the purpose of creating a new life.

  • Harry Flynn

    There is nothing in this article about the problem posed by concupiscence.

    • me

      God calls all to holiness and thus, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, one being of self-control. Seek first the Kingdom of God.

      • Harry Flynn

        Unfortunately, self-control is not something everyone has but concupiscence all DO have.

        • me

          Yes, I agree. However, this is what God asks of us. Do you believe in the 1st Commandment?

          • Harry Flynn

            Simul lapsus et redemptus.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    Trust in God is the hardest thing for a culture addicted to trust in man.

    • joan

      Yes, it is. The statement i love so often repeated: ‘What do you worship?’
      God does not need our help controlling LIFE or HIS church, the Body of Christ. I am afraid of some of the mandates the Church requires, no matter how old they are, because many are man-made rules, not God’s Law. There is a real fear of God in that…

      • Sign

        And are you the authority we ought to listen to?

        • joan

          :) i don’t know how you came to that conclusional question. Most sincerely, God’s Law is the authority.

          • Sign

            And you are the authentic interpreter?

            • joan

              i believe the Holy Spirit is the intrepeter. With all of God’s Love, all I am saying is God is first and foremost. I love our Church, the living and active Body of Christ, the Divine Institution managed and operated by humans. It is some of the man-made rules(?)for lack of better word, which create a God fearing in me. I’m feeling sorry I might have offended you by my thoughts i posted on this as there is absolutely no offense intended at all.

              I suspect I’m in search of God’s full Truth behind those man-made rules made doctrine. I like hearing other’s thoughts. There’s so much to contemplate in all that. And sometimes, i have a thought too. God is good and all will be well. Peace

      • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

        God sent his Son Jesus Christ to tell us what to do. Jesus Christ appointed a Vicar to continue to tell us what to do. That’s God working in the world through the Church.

        The rest of this? Not so much.

        • joan

          GOD works through all of us because we are the Body of Christ. What do you worship -

          • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

            The Body of Christ has a head. And a spinal cord.

            • joan

              okay. What does that mean? Are you speaking of our Lord Jesus in His humanity? Reason I ask is because His Church is commonly referred to as The Body of Christ. Does that make sense?

              • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

                I’m referring to the OTHER HALF of the Body of Christ theology about the church; that the members of the Body of Christ have their own God Given talents and responsibilities. The hierarchy is inescapably a part of that; some are called to be workers in the vineyard, some are called to manage the vineyard- and the Pope is the Vicar of Christ and the head of the Church.

                • joan

                  Oh, thank you. I was thinking of the Body of Christ in the context of a living organism, alive and active – no walls. I’ve never had any theology, so it is certain you know much more than i. All in all I love our Church. Mass keeps me seeking the things above. I respect the institution. Therefore, i make effort to be obedient to the rules. I admit I do not agree with some man-made rules/doctrine, (law?) and I do not have even somewhat in-depth knowledgable of the other half you speak of. In addition, the humanity stuff in that other half is sad to me. I sense it strange to refer to it as ‘the other half”.

                  i can’t help but think of:
                  “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.” – St. Joan of Arc

                  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

                    When I was in that position of not agreeing with what I thought was “man-made rules/doctrine”- I found it helpful to study the history of doctrinal development in the areas I had questions in. Invariably, I found the Church to be right and my thinking to be wrong.

                    We live in an amazing time. Much of the history of the Church is now online, with only an internet connection and a browser, one can “time travel” through the centuries with ease and read the writings and encylicals of every Pope since 1600 and every Council since Jerusalem produced the Didache (The Way of the 12, the first Catechism, I really don’t understand why it wasn’t included in the Canon of Scripture, but it’s well worth a read- especially since it shows that issues like abortion are nothing new to the Church and were considered in the first and second centuries).

                    • joan

                      hmm, okay, i want to clearly understand you, you do not think there are any ‘man-made rules.’ Is this correct? Perhaps i need to ask if you could explain, please, why one thing is called doctrine and one thing called dogma. just curious, thanks ~

                    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

                      Actually, there are man made rules- and there are three things. Dogma, Doctrine, and Discipline.

                      Dogma is the Deposit of Faith from Jesus Christ to the Apostles and the 1st Century Church. This cannot change, nor be allowed to change.

                      Doctrine is the logical development that came from men studying Dogma over the last 2000 years. Logically, it was a part of dogma to begin with, but took time for us human beings to grow into it and understand. Doctrine changes, but very slowly, I like to use the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as an example. While you can point to it in the Bible, it was first proposed by St. Jerome as he was translating the Vulgate- and it took another 1600 years before it was called a Doctrine by the Church.

                      Finally, there is Discipline- those rules used to teach dogma and doctrine to a specific time or culture. It would be nice if these were reviewed more often- but they already change the quickest of all. In the United States, we recently experienced a change in Discipline with the new translation of the Mass.

                      “Rules of Men” would fall into the Discipline category, largely.

                    • Joan

                      i do not see this as a real answer to my question. In addition, i do not agree with some of the content. But like i said, i don’t have any theology. Perhaps I will study up. Thanks Theodore. May God Bless You.

                    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

                      That’s the key- study up. The Church didn’t come up with dogma, doctrine, and discipline by accident. Find out the reasons why- for yourself.

  • http://amazon.com/author/jamesglaeg James Glaeg

    Ironical that the Catholic teachings the world finds the most “hot-button” and difficult — those around sex — should actually be among the very most precious we have to give.

  • John O’Neill

    Nolite confidere in principus. Simply put; never put trust in tribal or political leaders.

    • joan

      What about the Institution that says to our men if you are called to be a priest, then we the leaders of the Catholic Church require mandatory permanent celibacy if you want to join? belong? be a member? be a priest. And then they make exceptions? Please, where is the faith and trust in God in that? God’s Law is chastity.

      • msmischief

        Since you are free to join and belong without being a priest, that’s kinda senseless.

        • me joan

          I am speaking specifically to John On’Neill’s comment and the placement of our trust. I’ve used John’s comment as an example. I guess I don’t understand what part is senseless when it comes to a man-made mandatory rule/requirement versus God’s Law. Basically, your comment comes down to we’re a club and we can make any rules we want, so if you want to be a priest, you shall remain celibate. If you want to belong without being a priest, you are free to do so. I have an understanding reverence for celibacy as a discipline. I just don’t understand why it is mandated, and only for some and not others. Can you explain that?

      • Chris Cloutier

        What about it(the institution)? The churches teachings are based on a three legged stool approach-scripture, tradition, and the magisterium. Christ chose men and asked them to follow Him.To give up whatever their station in life was to actually go and follow Him. This required courage and sacrifice. Through the ages that tradition has been maintained. Priests are married to Christ and celibacy is a sacrifice to the greater glory of God.
        From Catholic Answers:
        While women could publicly pray and prophesy in church (1 Cor. 11:1–16), they could not teach or have authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:11–14), since these were two essential functions of the clergy. Nor could women publicly question or challenge the teaching of the clergy (1 Cor. 14:34–38).

        The Fathers rejected women’s ordination, not because it was incompatible with Christian culture, but because it was incompatible with Christian faith. Thus, together with biblical declarations, the teaching of the Fathers on this issue formed the tradition of the Church that taught that priestly ordination was reserved to men. Throughout medieval times and even up until the present day, this teaching has not changed.

        Further, in 1994 Pope John Paul II formally declared that the Church does not have the power to ordain women. He stated, “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” (OrdinatioSacerdotalis 4).

        And in 1995 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in conjunction with the pope, ruled that this teaching “requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 25:2)” (Response of Oct. 25, 1995).

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  • Martin Corts

    A resonant blessing to read. Thank you Tyler.

  • Paul

    As much as I agree with the article wholeheartedly, I can’t help but think that those of us who are Christians (and specifically Catholics) are rooted in our faith which is founded not only on the supernatural but also on the rational, the logical & the commonsense – and this is where we may miss the point of mass-culture altogether. For mass-culture does not hold the same values as our faith. Mass-culture has become a beast in its own right , it does not observe any rule nor does it obey any rationale or logic, it evolves and re-invents itself as it goes along. It does not need the supernatural (God), logic or rationale for its existence. In fact our (mass) culture depends on its ability to re-invent itself for its very existence & its survivability, thus the impermanence of our culture is what drives our society and our civilisation – its very nature is short-lived. Hence there will be a time when the beast we have created will eventually turn on us and consumes us, and we will all have to be called to account for the delusions of our own making.

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  • Evocatus

    Somewhere in the Apocalypse St. John says that a toxic stream spewed from the dragon’s mouth will be swallowed up by the earth before it drowns the ecclesial figure of the woman. The earth and all the natural good of creation as God fashioned it is the antidote to the current of disordered abstractions eminating from the mass market and transnational media.

  • JCW

    Just wondering why articles describe someone as a Catholic convert rather than just a Catholic. That information doesn’t make me look at the author in any different light unless the article is personally about how and why they converted.

    • Christie

      That’s the author description for the author that he chose to share when he writes articles for this magazine. That description will be next to his name, no matter the content the article he writes. As a fellow convert from Protestantism, I think it’s a good thing to share with people.

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  • Tim

    At age 23 I listened to the Land for the first time, finally trusted my sexuality, and discovered that I, as a Man, am meant to be in a relationship with another Man. Years of deception and pain were washed away and I am happier than ever before. I have been working on healing ever since.

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